greetings from the post-trip recovery bath! or, LOL remember when I thought I could handle acid?

Ellie: LSD? Pshaw, no problem. I got this. Be just like a really big dose of shrooms. I studied up. I know what to expect.

LSD: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahAHAHAHAHAhahahaha *pauses to catch breath* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA



hahahahahahaha!

the calm before

The next few weeks are going to be chaos. Birthday trip to the desert this weekend, friends in town the next, then it's out to Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. Chaucer, however, is none too pleased about any of it. Disruptions to his routine, being left behind while Mama and BroDog go on vacation, getting less attention when guests are around? No thanks, says he.

The least we could do was squeeze in a day devoted entirely to him, before things get crazy. So this past Sunday was Chaucday. We took him to a new-to-all-of-us destination, Highland Park, for some off-leash exploring, then to K9 Loft in Pasadena for three (!) new toys, then to Pitfire Pizza where he got to chill with us on the patio (a rare treat; few restaurants are roomy enough to easily accommodate him). We even took him to Little Tokyo for froyo later that night.

Not much in the way of story to go with these, just the three of us enjoying one another's company, on a weekend in May. Sliding into summer, soaking up the sun.











anesthetic

Dentist this afternoon. Three cavities filled, because apparently I've been using powdered sugar as toothpaste. Gotta look into that. I'd canceled my three previously scheduled appointments since I am a huge baby (though in my defense the last time I let the dentist lay hands on me I got dry socket), so I couldn't say a word today when they kept me waiting a solid forty-five minutes before starting.

The exam rooms at my dentist's office aren't divided by walls; they're just small, recessed inlets off of a main walkway. This makes it easier for the staff to step in and out of each patient area quickly, so they can manage multiple appointments at once. It also allows everyone to hear what's going on with everyone else. Drilling, cries of pain, diagnoses of gum disease... It's all very democratic.

Today in the "room" beside mine was an elderly woman, whose face I could see when I turned to my left, which I did exactly once. Scraggly grey hair, clean-faced, threadbare cardigan. She had a dreamy, faraway smile that suggested nitrous, but it was clear from the encouraging words of her companion (who I could hear sitting at her feet) that she wasn't high. Just not there, exactly. Alzheimer's perhaps, or dementia? I don't know. The middle-aged male voice - which kept calling her Drea and telling her how brave she was -  had a patronizing quality and an unnecessary loudness that set my already-nervous teeth on edge. I wondered whether there wasn't some part of Drea, still perfectly lucid, that hoped he would shut the hell up.

With nothing else to do, I texted Terence a play-by-play. He just said, "She likes to smile, and she likes to chew, too! Doesn't she? DON'T YOU, DREA?"

Jesus, said Terence. Plot twist: he's actually in the chair in a dress talking about himself. 

Now he asked the dentist and assistant if they mind if he takes a picture of them working on her. WTF. He's talking to her like she's four and promising her a Starbucks cookie and I want to cry. 

Poor Terence, who was probably waiting for my own work to start so he could take a nap, didn't know what to say. It's like a bad show and you can't change the channel. 

I feel awful for her, I said, adding a frown. She's terrified, I said, though I had no way of knowing if that was true. Then I repeated the mantra I'd been saying all day, to stave off my dental visit dread: Joshua Tree, Bonnaroo, Lake Burton. Joshua Tree, Bonnaroo, Lake Burton. Joshua Tree...

---

My fillings were surprisingly quick and painless, and I was on the train back downtown within forty minutes. I absolutely hate having my face numb, though, so as soon I got home I Googled ways to dispel the anesthetic faster. One site said increased blood flow helps, as from exercise. But I hadn't eaten anything so a run was out of the question. I threw some soup on the stove and edited photos from the weekend while I waited. When the soup was hot, I poured myself a steaming bowl and retreated into a big, cozy chair. But when I tried to blow on the soup to cool it, the muscles around my mouth just bunched up stiffly; I was still too numb. Panic crept in. What if something's wrong? What if they made a terrible mistake and my face is stuck like this forever? I slurped a spoonful of soup and the slackness of my jaw was unbearable. Exactly how a stroke victim would feel, I realized.

I knew everything would come back to me, if I just waited a little bit longer. I'm still waiting, though. Poking my cheek with my tongue, grimacing and puckering and getting quizzical looks from Chaucer.

We could probably both use a run.

beautiful, in six parts

1. the tweet

A hint dropped, by a musician we love. English singer/songwriter we saw at Coachella last year and whose scream-along populist ballads get me through housework. He's doing a secret show tonight, just like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist! Somewhere in Hollywood. Piece of cake - train ride away. We set him to mobile notifications and track the game until one of his followers cracks it: Madame Siam, a speakeasy near Vine. Perfect. You nap; I'll paint my nails dark blue. Yes, let's definitely get there early. Bet bigger fans than us will be around the block.

2. the scramble

Went for a run and now I'm running late. Goddamn it, why can I never manage my time? Can't decide what to wear. You zip me into a long sleeve dress - it's cold but I don't want to mess with a jacket. Nope. Too hot, too constrictive. Cropped tank and jeans? Good god no. Whose clothes are these? Where is that girl? I haven't seen her in ages. Fuck it. T-shirt, jeans, bomber, sneaks. It's Frank Turner, FFS. You sing and fix yourself a drink, in a fantastic mood that levels me out. I toss my own back and it's time go, now, we've got to get moving. Running to the subway. Running back to the apartment; I forgot something. Running to the subway again. No trains to NoHo from here tonight? What the ever loving fuck? What are the chances? We hop a bus to the next station. On the way over, I fill you in on my web adventures the night before. My new obsession: slaughterhouses, factory farms, meat packing, Temple Grandin. Captive bolt stunners, livestock behavior, restraints, bloodspotting, the whole nine. I tell you some of what I've learned, the good and the bad. Back out on the street, running again, a text comes. Holy shit. Kerry and Ross have won a trip to Japan?!

3. the wait

Bigger fans indeed have beat us there; we won't be getting a spot up front, that's for certain. Blame the Metro, but really we should have known. A solid hour's wait, in the cold. But our mood is fantastic, bubbly and giggly. The way you hold me, and kiss my cheek if I look at you too long and smile. Where did this come from? So nice. This. So easy. Your affection, the playfulness. I am so lucky. We read tweets and watch videos. We text Kerry back, joke with our neighbors in line, and cuddle in the cold. You offer to go grab us pizza. I'd rather wait, hungry as I am. It's all lovely though. Such a great space we're in. Hi. I missed you. 

4. the show

I make a beeline for the stage while you get drinks. I can't get too close, but I don't begrudge those in front of me; they know every single word to every single song. True fans, they have my respect. We end up against a bit of brick wall, not more than five feet back. You've got something to lean against, and now so do I. Depending on whether I know the lyrics, whether I can belt them out along with the others, I jump and dance and fist pump - or I melt back into you. Hearing you at my cheek, watching this performer we both love. This is a really, really good night for us. Frank's brilliant, of course. The music matched by his jokes and stories, the way he flirts with the crowd like an old flame he'll never get over. He loves us. We love him. We are all of us drunk. He is a poet. And I tell him this, afterward, in his ear while you sneak a picture though I told you not to take one. Poor guy is wasted and exhausted, only a few hours off a plane. But I had to meet him. Don't know when I'll ever get the chance again. "You're my favorite poet" I say, and draw back a bit to see him smile. "And my favorite discovery of the past few years. You inspire the writer in me and I hope to someday see you across the pond, too." Holy shit I got it all out without stumbling. Thank you, vodka. He is grateful. Says it means a lot. Or something. Not sure; I was still pretty nervous. He's thinner than I'd thought. Taller, too. Let's go get pizza, baby. 

5. the pizza

We go to my favorite place, even though it's already late and you have such an early morning. Two huge slices of cheese that we eat on the steps of the El Capitan, as is our tradition. Tim Allen's star at your feet, Roger Ebert's at mine. People watching. You can't beat Hollywood people watching. Post-mortem on the show. You're embarrassed by what you said to him ("Great show, man") because you think it was lame. But it was sweet and perfect. Something magical about seeing him hug you thanks, this stranger who's nevertheless meant so much to me, and you. Two of my favorite musicians. We should have taken a photo, we agree. Together, with him sandwiched in between. A Frankwich. Next time. Maybe across the pond, even. Crust isn't very good tonight. Let's go. But I'm still hungry? Ghiradelli? Yes! But once inside I change my mind. We skedaddle with our free squares of chocolate and head to the station. You are wiped out, poor thing. Way too long a day for you, with way too little sleep.

6. the train

I'm in the most comfortable plastic seat in the world, sinking sleepily into your shoulder. Selfies, in between yawns. You're so damn beautiful. So was tonight.


moonlight

Me: Wanna hear something crazy? The last time I went somewhere that wasn't a music festival, a trip with my dad, or going to *bury* my dad was 2009, when we went to Vegas. ...Terence and I just booked two nights in Joshua Tree. A private home, open and spacious, up against this amazing boulder ridge, all to ourselves. We're gonna take LSD and scramble around naked in the moonlight. 

Mason: So...like a music festival?

Me: AHAHAHA

---

40th birthday plans, sorted. The original destination was Big Sur, but we waited too long and the place we wanted was booked out. I was disappointed for about five minutes until Terence suggested this alternative, which now I feel even more excited about. Big Sur is so breathtakingly beautiful I don't think I'd want to close my eyes the whole time I was there, much less chase Alice around (to drop a phrase I've no business dropping). Going back to the desert - where I've spent most of my life - for this experience feels perfect. Like I'm bringing an older version of myself along for the ride. We'll see what we have to say to one another.

I tend to tiptoe around the subject of drug use in anticipation of criticism, but I'm dispensing with such coyness for this adventure. I've previously mentioned my curiosity about acid, my desire to try it when the time was right. Well, this will be exactly the right time, the right place, the right partner, and the right circumstances. And I am really, really excited.

I'm pretty well versed in the effects of large doses of psilocybin, so the hallucinatory stuff that might scare some away doesn't spook me. In fact I love it. On those occasions I experience visuals (shifting, morphing, etc), I actually become gleeful, like a kid in a funhouse (assuming it's a kid who likes funhouses). But what I'm looking forward to much more than the interesting external stuff is what goes on internally - what I'll learn about myself.

A couple years ago, a girl who'd taken LSD drew a series of self-portraits over the course of her several-hour trip. Her friend who'd been with her shared the pictures on Reddit, and the story went viral. Looking at the drawings is probably a good litmus test for someone to decide whether or not acid is something they'd want to try. I've shown it to people who've shaken their heads and said Nuh uh. No effing way. And I've shown it to some who've just marveled. When I look at it (and when I read what the artist said as she went along), I grin and get the chills.

I'm fascinated by the idea of seeing new sides of myself, for better or for worse. By the potential for self-discovery and shifts in perspective. I've already experienced this sort of thing with mushrooms - an opening up, creatively and emotionally; Terence has, too. And while I can't predict or control what will happen when I take acid, my understanding from others is that going into it with the right mindset will largely determine how positive or negative my experience is. And my mindset is Let's see what amazing things we can find...

Not to mention: talk about the ultimate date night. They say you feel deeply bonded to those with whom you've taken LSD. That the intensity and depth (not to mention the duration) of the experience is something you only want to undergo with those you love and trust. Check and check. I can't wait to hold hands and take this plunge with the most open-hearted and gentle soul I know.

Also? He doesn't look half bad, naked in the moonlight.

grassy parks and crowded dance floors

There once was a girl who loved a boy who loved her back. And though there were some days on which he didn't seem to speak her language, she tried to remember that most days, he did. But on those days when no, he definitely did not, she thought about the other ways they could speak to one another - and the places they could go where words didn't matter so much.




in which I update my Linked In credentials

Some years ago, when I was still living in Tucson, I was out with my very beautiful, slightly-older-than-me girlfriend Sarah. I don't remember where we were, or what was going on, but I referred to her as a cougar. She cringed. "Ugh, Ellie, no. That is not a compliment." When I'd used the word, I thought it only meant a woman in her upper thirties attractive enough to still win the attention of younger men - which Sarah did. But she explained to me the word's more negative connotations, namely that it posits the woman in the dynamic as predatory - if not a little bit pathetic.

I never used the word again.

The bar where Krista and I hang out - ok fine, where we're regulars, but only because the staff, food, and other patrons are so awesome - is next to a nightclub the trashiness of which is legendary. Last night we, along with another girlfriend of hers, had just enough to drink to venture over for a last cocktail and some laughs. The place wasn't so much trashy as young. My actual words were "Holy shit it's a daycare."

You can see where this is going.

It couldn't have been written better. We were on our way to the bar and Krista, being her sociable, pretty self, got waylaid by some dudes who started chatting her up. I was happily tipsy, absorbed in the scene but removed from it. Observing. Feeling my age a little bit, but nothing that uncomfortable. Anyway, someone said something funny, and for a gag I matter-of-factly announced to the crowd at large that I was forty. Then I said it again, louder. "I'm forty!" Just sort of calling it out, like a town crier. Just to make myself and Krista laugh - which she did. "Hey everybody, I'm forty! Just so you know."

"No you're not," scorned Krista. "Shut up." But by this time the kids she was talking to wanted in on this so someone said something about my looking good, yada yada. Typical bullshit banter.

Then one kid cuts in with this thoughtful look on his face. "Seriously..." he starts, and I expect the rest of his sentence will be telling me how old I actually look. I brace myself for The Number. But instead he finishes with "...I love cougars." Boom.

It was amazing. Comedy and poetic justice and the cycle of life and irony all tied up into one. It was like, Oh wow, that's it. This was the moment. I am officially older.  The kid didn't mean anything by it, it wasn't malicious and I was more amused and, like, brought up short than offended, but oh man.

"Oh my god," I told Krista a minute later. "It's like that scene in Knocked Up. 'Bitch you old.'" She scoffed and told me to STFU, that I still turned plenty of heads etc - all that she's supposed to say. And I spent the rest of the night meowing and putting pretend claws out, because whaddyagonnado. But I tell you what, Quents. I don't think I'll be stopping by daycare again anytime soon.

(K's pups, and perfectly polished thumbnail)

Maybe it was my Mad Man bra giving my age away?? wtf



negotiation

2000

Body and Brain agree to meet at midnight, in a greasy spoon downtown. It's a 24-hour joint, the kind with old-fashioned glass sugar dispensers instead of crinkly pastel packets - that makes Body happy. And it's empty on weeknights, which makes Brain happy. He doesn't want to be seen. They take a booth at the back and order a pot of coffee.

"Cream, not milk," specifies Body, ignoring Brain's exasperated look. "And--would you mind?" She hands the waitress a half-empty sugar pourer.

"Are you kidding me? There's plenty!" objects Brain, but Body leans back and casually points to a clock on the opposite wall.

"You're the one that wanted to meet at midnight. As far as I'm concerned, it's a new day. Counter resets to zero, amigo. Now let's get started, yeah? I'm exhausted, and I'm sure you are, too."

She's feeling cocky tonight, Brain muses. Must have made a killing. He reaches into his coat and pulls out a ball point pen and small pad of paper. Uncaps the pen and scratches a number on the pad, then tears the sheet off and passes it, face down, across the table to Body. They silently hold eye contact while the waitress pours them each a cup of steaming black coffee.

"You didn't even have to think about it, did you?" Body asks, without touching the paper.

"Oh, I think about it all the time. Some days it's all I think about." Brain slumps in his seat, weary, anticipating the fight ahead.

Body flips the slip of paper and reads the number written there. Immediately she starts shaking her head. "Impossible." Brain starts to speak but Body repeats herself, voice rising in anger: "Impossible!"

"Not impossible," says Brain serenely. "You've been there before."

"When I was nineteen!" Body is blinking fast, shaking. She takes a gulp of coffee with unsteady hands then gestures for Brain to give her the pen. Nearly knocking her mug off the table, she slashes a line through Brain's number and writes a new one below it. She pushes the paper roughly back across the table to her adversary.

Brain considers. It's a fair number. A decent number. But he knows she can do better. As if to mock his confidence in her, Body dumps several seconds' worth of sugar into her drink. She raises it in a sarcastic toast.

"That's not going to help, you know, whatever figure we decide on." His tone is soft. He knows what he's asking of her.

"We," she replies dryly. "Whatever we decide. You do realize I'm the one killing myself on that treadmill every day, right? In the canyon, in hundred degree heat? One more mile, you whisper, as if it's so goddamn easy. Ten more minutes. Don't you want that bikini to look amazing? Well you know what? Fuck you and your impossible standards. Fuck the magazines you read and the other girls you look at, and fuck the mind games you play with me. The guilt and the shame and--"

"Stop."

"No, I'm tired of chasing some--"

"Just stop." Brain reaches across to Body. Gently squeezes her wrist. "We do this every time. You say the same thing, every time." He pauses, looking at her intently. "Then you remember how happy you would be, if only." He picks up the pen. With careful, deliberate strokes he crosses out her counteroffer. Writes his own beneath it. "You can't lie to me, Body." Slides the paper slowly back into her hand. "I know what you want."

april leftovers

Look at that face, Thrifty. I hope you can live with yourself

This is what $50/month saved in pet rent looks like. And if I wanted to, now I could take him on the train, or in grocery stores. (I don't want to.) Though it's questionable from his expression which of us needs the emotional support more.


No edits on this. Just white pants + the trippy lighting in Bar 107. I rushed out to show Terence: "BABY I HAVE NO LEGS IN THE BATHROOM" and he said "That's amazing, honey! You finished off the shrooms, didn't you?" (I did not.)


Do you have any idea how long it takes to Photoshop nose hairs?


From a stupidly fun afternoon hanging out by the pool(?) at Ace Hotel.


Most people don't know this about me, but I am actually 1/16th turtle. Check out that neck extension!


TopMan INDEED


ELLIE STOP POSTING UNFLATTERING PICS OF YOURSELF WTF


Aforementioned afternoon, with my boys Mark and Dennis


They don't come classier than us.


Sometimes I look at things other than my own camera lens.


Mark, me, and Snuggles.


Ugh, it is SO embarrassing when the gum in my hair gets stuck to Mark's shoulder. THAT'S TWICE NOW.


This beauty's just a block away from my apartment. (Los Angeles Public Library)


Apartment's clean if not the sock!


Soon the US Bank Tower will cease to be the tallest building in LA. We're just trying to make it feel special while we can.


He played "I'm On Fire" for me, in the dark, after I asked if he knew it. (He didn't, but he found the chords online and learned it on the spot.)



starter pair

Sometimes I think everything you'd need to know about my terribly flawed character you could learn from my eyeglasses.

When I was first diagnosed with astigmatism, I had a pair of my dad's drugstore readers refitted with my prescription. He kept them scattered around his house the same way he hoarded mechanical pencils - the same way I keep a tiny blue jar of Blistex handy in nearly every dresser, cabinet, and purse. At a certain age you get tired of looking for things.

Anyway, they were a temporary and sentimental fix. Cheap green plastic, one of the few personal items of his that I saved. After all, they literally let me see the world the way he did. And I resisted buying new frames that would suit me better because every time I put a pair on, I saw my mother in the mirror. Given the choice, I'd rather see my dad's past looking back at me than my own future.

When I finally gave in, it was Chanel that seduced me past my hangup. Rectangular, midnight blue acetate, tasteful twin Cs mounted on an inch of delicate leather quilting at the temple. They were so beautiful I didn't notice that they were essentially the same shape and style as my dad's pharmacy readers. Or that they made me look more like my mother than anything else I'd tried on. They were $300. They were, technically, my first pair. I consider myself a generous person towards others, but when it comes to something for me? Entitled doesn't even begin to cover it.

I still have them, remarkably. I've managed not to lose or break them yet. But because I am so goddamn lazy, they're almost always smudged to a comical degree. I'd be embarrassed to leave the house in them, yet I'll sit at my desk for hours on end, fully aware of the fingerprints through which I'm viewing my laptop screen, and never so much as wipe them on my shirt. Three hundred dollars. Starter pair.

And to put the cherry on this symbolism sundae, I never remember to take them when I need them most: night driving.

In other words, this thing from which I benefit greatly - this beautiful, valuable thing which, when I take advantage of it, helps me do better - is the thing I most casually disregard and take for granted.

Not all problems can be erased with a soft, dry cloth.

derby

Kentucky Derby banquet and viewing party thing, at the LA Athletic Club. We're not members, but Kross is. Figured what the hell. We'll wear goofy hats, suck down a few mint juleps, root for the horse with the best name. An excellent excuse to day drink with friends, anyway.

I get there first, see Kerry waiting at the bar. No hat. Plain black shift dress. Looking annoyed. The club is terribly understaffed. Always takes ages to get a drink. The woman working the entrance accepts my cash and cuffs me in a flimsy wristband I'll lose within five minutes; I stuff Terence's, along with his free drink coupon, into my clutch. A clutch seemed in order, to go with the pleated woven dress someone must have secretly clipped a good four inches off over the winter. I feel naked. Adjusting my headband, where a hot pink silk dahlia blooms on an inch of netting, I decide not to give Kerry hell for her lack of costume. But it was her idea.

"Ross is grumpy," she informs me by way of greeting.

"The dress looks great!" I respond. It's an Anthro score she texted me about a couple nights ago. I didn't realize she was going to wear it today. But no amount of tugging on my hem is going to change how short and silly my own is. Time to cash in that free drink coupon.

Back at their table, which sits adjacent to the massive projection screen showing pre-race festivities, Ross picks at a plate of traditional derby fare, as interpreted by the LAAC. Finger sandwiches, pigs in a blanket, fried chicken. Kerry has waited for me to eat, and after setting our drinks down, we hit the buffet. Everything I put on my plate looks brown and dry and wilted. Remembering the KP Health Action Notice I received via email a few days back, I add a couple spoonfuls of cut strawberries. Slightly elevated, I'd read, my jaw nearly hitting the keyboard as I scanned the results of my blood work. Cut back on fried foods, cheese, and butter. Immediately I'd sent a screenshot of the message to Mason, my partner in thyroid disease, dadlessness, and now, apparently, high cholesterol. He'd only just found out about his a few weeks before.

OMG we're fucking twins, he replied.

Ridiculous, I texted back. Caught me completely off guard.

Meet you at Furr's at 4:15 for dinner

(Cracks about getting older figure heavily into our conversations these days. We even have a hashtag for it: #goodforty, coined by the twenty-something girl who, while flirting with him, assured Mason he was "the good forty".) 

The strawberries turn out to be the best thing on the plate anyway.

We catch up, the only real news since we've seen one another last being our respective vet visits. I tell them about Chaucer's mysterious panting episode; they brief me on their cat's medical issues. We are all of us mortal: canine, feline, human. I don't mention my elevated cholesterol, which depresses me. Makes me feel old. Kerry is turning forty-five just days before I turn forty. Big year for both of us. When I'd offered to plan something for her birthday she'd answered, with typical frankness, "Well you can try, but I don't know if I'll want to do it." I've missed her.

Terence arrives and settles in. He feels out the loop, coming late. Scooches his riveted leather chair close to the table. "What'd I miss?" I've prepared a plate for him since, absurdly, the food is already being pulled. The race hasn't even started and they're shutting down the party. Breaking a sugar cookie in half, I assure him he hasn't missed much. We've barely started drinking and haven't picked our horses yet. I finish the cookie and have another.

Ross hands me a printout of the race stats. I ignore the odds and read the names aloud. "Upstart" is my favorite. He points out how much Terence, ever the good sport and clad in a salmon-colored bow tie with matching suspenders we picked up for $20 in the Fashion District, resembles Bill Nye. Kerry nearly spit-takes her julep. But I'm not satisfied until Terence poses for a pic, perfectly imitating a photo of Nye I pull up on Google images. It's spot on. Also terribly unflattering. I text a side-by-side to him and everyone we know. The four of us giggle like idiots, barely aware of what's happening in Kentucky. The day has officially begun.

There's a costume contest, organized by an upsettingly perky woman whose dirty blonde hair matches the wide brimmed, beribboned hat she's cocked just so. Her entire getup is as beige as the brunch on my plate but much prettier. And she knows it. Flashing a flirtatious smile, she saunters around the room, drawing the suspense out. "Whoooo will it be? Who will be our best. Dressed. Womannnn?" Kerry and I roll our eyes. By now we've all decided this was an overpriced dud of an event at best and at worst an alarming display of privilege. Several women are wearing the kind of expensive Gainsborough hats I saw the day before in the Fashion District, selling for over $100. I feel guilty enough about my headband, which I talked the shopkeeper down to $20.

The race is over in the blink of an eye. Excited shouts, laughter from the more raucous tables near the bar, then it's done. The crowd clears out quickly, leaving the dining hall zapped of energy. But we've got coupons for the "Specialty Punch" being served at whiskey bar next door, so after Terence and I make an ill-advised stop by the photo booth, that's where we head.

Seven Grand is making a good show of it, for a Saturday afternoon. Most everyone there is dressed up, too, which makes Terence feel a little better about his ridiculous ensemble. Such a good sport. Me, I've about forgotten my headband and miniscule frock. Or I'm just too liquored up to care.

We stay long enough to collect our free punch, which isn't half bad, and for me to say hello to a bartender I know. Old roommate of an ex-boyfriend. It's an embarrassing conversation.

Hey! (For the life of me I can't remember his name.)

Hey! (I'm pretty sure he doesn't remember mine, either. Thank god.)

How's it going? You guys out for the derby?

Yeah, yeah! Day drinking, you know. 

The awkwardest of nods and silences ensues.

So, how's living with ___? (Holy fuck, did I just say that? Am I that drunk?)

Oh, we don't live together anymore. He moved out. Still my best friend, though. (This last feels like a warning.)

Let me start over. (I shake my head as if to clear the slate.) How are YOU? What's new with YOU? (He laughs.) So obnoxious. That was so obnoxious of me! (He laughs more, shrugging it off. He's a good guy.)

Good, good. Doing the ___ and the ___ and working for ____. Which is cool because I get to ____. (I nod emphatically, feeling mortified, and make some inane comment to show I'm paying attention.)

Well, great to see you! (His name comes to me, and I use it, hoping it doesn't sound like an afterthought.)

Yeah, you too! You look great! (He gestures to my dress, headband.) Really, looking awesome. (I think I hear a trace of begrudging surprise in his voice, and I wonder, drunkenly, what that's about. No matter. Ancient history. I'm a different person now, with different LDL levels and everything.)

We take an Uber to Villain's Tavern, and the rest blurs a bit. Sitting outside in the sun, at our regular table. We have a regular table, I inwardly marvel, with these friends of ours. That is a thing to be grateful for. 

We talk for almost two hours, slowly losing sunshine and heat. Bacon cheddar fries to share; today is not a day for minding Health Action Notices. Several trips to the bar for cocktails the bartender takes a stupidly long time to prepare, packing them with extra shaved ice to disguise how underfilled they are. In the bathroom, Kerry and I argue over whether or not the mirror is "skinny" and which of us has the worse throat wattle. Back outside she deletes the group photos we take (No, no, terrible, ugh, no...) but shoots a selfie before handing my phone back to me.There.

Later when we're waiting for another Uber, the four of us stand close together, pairing up tightly for warmth. Where did this cold come from?? A young family is having a photo shoot feet from where we wait. They must have wanted the Arts District backdrop - brick walls, wide alleys, industrial cool. Two impossibly blonde little girls mug and twirl for the camera, the younger one clearly more comfortable in front of the lens. Kerry, semi-wasted, is fascinated by them. "Look at their hair. Look at it! Ellie! What happens to blond hair? It doesn't stay that shiny and perfect!"

"You have the exact same color hair," I point out. And she does.

"Yeah but I pay hundreds of dollars for it."

Next up is dinner: Mexican food in Silver Lake. Margaritas we drink on the rocks, but with glasses of ice served on the side. Someone figured out you get more alcohol this way, and we've stuck with it ever since. Enchiladas: cheese for Ross and Terence, chicken for Kerry and I. An argument breaks out. Familiar territory for us - woo woo, superstition, psychic powers and whether there's life after death. Sides form, as usual. Two against two. I complain, begging them to knock it off. They know I hate getting into this shit. I storm off to the bathroom. "You guys can talk about this all you want, but you know where I stand, and you know I hate arguing with you. I love you guys too much. I don't want to do this again." When I come back it's still going. Gets more heated. Too much alcohol today, too sensitive a topic. Do you guys not think that I'd love to talk to my mom and my dad? That I'd pay anything for just an hour's worth of conversation?? It's not. Fucking. Possible. So what's all theoretical for you? Not so much for me. Tears. First me, then Kerry, in sympathy.

"Ellie, none of us knows what that's like. None of us has lost a parent." She's conciliatory, dabbing her eyes. I try to explain it's not a competition, that's not what I meant. Holy fuck are we drunk. Somebody hands me a napkin. Terence tries to wrap his arm around my waist, but he's on the wrong side of this whole thing, and I'm furious. We catch our breaths, pay the check, and stumble back outside into the cold, shocked and quiet at the turn the night has taken.

In the Uber home I'm sandwiched between Ross and Kerry, who plays with my hair and squeezes my arm every few minutes. We're all of us rattled but I'm the most far gone. Before leaving the restaurant I'd made them promise we'd leave this topic alone once and for all but we can't take back the nastiness that's already been aired.

Next day, I fire off an apologetic text to them both. Sorry, Jesus. Terence and I are so different that sometimes I just latch on to those differences. Both answer, making jokes. It's all good. We've been friends for four years now and it's all good. We know it was drunken bullshit, and it's already funny in retrospect. 

The nice thing about getting older: our friends get older right along with us. And the nice thing about going through shit is that some of it we go through with them. Our pets get sick. We get sick. We face down milestone birthdays and high cholesterol. We confront fading hair color, ghosts from the past, and fears from the present. And we do it together, because it's so much better that way. Drinks in hand, dumb hats on head, we race towards the end together.







literally

Literally sat alone on an overstuffed Chesterfield sofa, at the annual Gathering of Misappropriated, Misapplied, and Otherwise Corrupted Words, nursing a French 75. She watched the party with apprehension. Her agent had been right; she'd had to come, if only for the sake of networking. She desperately needed some positive PR. The Dictionary Society of North America had fucked her, and they had fucked her good. Writers, linguists, and grammar purists everywhere wanted nothing to do with her - thanks in no small part, she suspected, to this hatchet job. Verbum non grata, that's what she was.

Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that she didn't belong. Most of the secondaries here had officially turned decades, if not centuries ago. They'd had plenty of time to grow into their new meanings. As if to prove her point, a few of the pre-1700s laughed loudly at something Gay said. Literally suspected he killed at these things. So to speak. She crossed her l's and took a sip of her cocktail.

Earlier, one of the halfways had cornered her, asking a million questions about transition. Nonplussed was an elegant word, despite the perpetual knit of her brow, but she was terrified. Wanted to know what the process was like, how long it took, whether there was anything anyone could do to stop it. Literally had been frank. "Nope. Not a blooming thing. Language belongs to the people who use it; we're utterly at their mercy."

"But what about correct usage advocates?"

Literally snorted. "Correct. Go talk to Travesty about correct. He's got stories that will curl your hair." Nonplussed shuddered. She'd heard about the abuse Travesty had suffered after 9/11. He'd never been quite the same since.

"I just...I don't understand," stammered Nonplussed. Non plus literally means not more. No further. It's Latin!" she cried. "Don't they still teach Latin?" Perhaps unwilling to wait for an answer she already knew, the adjective excused herself, s's rustling as she swept off to the powder room. Literally just sat and drained the last of her drink. Everyword handled transition - or as her agent called it, "upgrading" - differently, she guessed.

Their exchange had caught the attention of several others, some of whom spoke in low voices on the far side of the room. They glanced her way every so often, clearly discussing her plight. Verbum non grata indeed. She sighed and fingered the lemon twist in her glass.

"Supposedly and Supposably, at your service." Literally lifted her eyes to see a pair of tall, dapper, impish looking words looming above her. Old French, maybe Middle English? It was hard to say. It was also hard to see much difference between them.

"Cousins," explained Supposedly, seeing her bemusement.

"Though these days, you'd think we were fraternal twins," added Supposably.

She extended her hand. "So nice to meet you. Are you..."

"Secondaries?" supplied Supposably. "Dear me, no. Just good old-fashioned confuseds."

Literally pursed her limps in sympathy. "That must be very frustrating."

"Ah, it's not so bad," said Supposedly. He snapped shut the clasp on a sleek silver cigarette case, offering her a smoke which she declined. Passing a cigarette to his companion and lighting one for himself, he went on. "You get used to it. Rather fun sometimes, actually. Can't tell you how many first dates we've derailed," he said with a wink.

"Supposedly, you're terrible." Supposably giggled, careful to aim his smoky exhalations away from Literally's face. "Really though, could be worse. Have you seen Cheeky? She's an absolute mess. Running around, shoving a lingerie catalog under everyone's noses. 'Honey,' I told her. 'You're going about this all wrong. You've got to own it.'" He examined his lengthening ash. "You'd think a word like Cheeky would have a better sense of humor."

"I don't follow," confessed Literally. "What's happened to her?"

Supposedly waved a hand impatiently. "Hardly anything worth crying over. Some fashion designers started using Cheeky to refer to, you know, knickers and whatnot that show a bit of, well--"

"Ass cheek," Supposably finished, raising his eyebrows dramatically. "Cheeky, in addition to saucy, audacious, and bold, now means literally exhibiting cheek."

Was it Literally's imagination, or had he deliberately emphasized that antepenultimate word? In any case, she was definitely going to need another cocktail...

heart so big

This guy gave us a scare at the end of last week.

Where we sometimes meet Terence after work; if I make the mistake of walking Chaucer down this block too early, he plants himself smack on the sidewalk and won't budge until his BroDog shows up. Just stares, waiting, in the direction Terence comes from.

When I got home late Thursday night, he was agitated, restless, panting heavily. Thought maybe he just needed a walk, but down on the street he wouldn't move from my side, seemed scared and not himself at all. Got back upstairs and he wouldn't settle down in his bed, wanted to lay on the bathroom rug instead. Sometimes he sleeps there so I said Okay buddy, see you in the morning. But the second I left the bathroom he started whining. Laid on the rug with him for a bit, hoping he'd fall asleep, but he didn't. Kept panting and pawing at me to pet him, whining if I moved away at all.

Finally at three am I woke Terence up. Asked if anything unusual had happened earlier in the evening when I was out, if he'd noticed Chaucer eating anything off the ground during his after dinner walk, etc. Terence said nope, all seemed normal. By this time though Chaucer had been heavily panting for over an hour, so that was that - time for a trip to the emergency vet.

X-ray, chest scan, blood work. Nothing showed up other than a slight heart murmur, which the vet said is something to keep an eye on, as it could indicate the start of degenerative disease, but it's nothing that would be causing him immediate pain. She said his blood work was actually "impeccable" for a dog his age. No sign of bloat or gastrointestinal obstruction; radiology didn't see any orthopedic concerns. She gave us pain killers for him and said we could also try Pepcid, as it could have been stomach upset. Held off on both for half a day to see if he'd shake it off, but while he was panting much less, he was still whining a little when we'd leave his side. So, did a day's worth of pain killers. 

Now he's slowly coming back to being himself. Playing, eating, drinking, regular routine. So whatever it was, thankfully, seems to have passed. Hate that my boy had to spend three hours being poked and prodded in a cold exam room, but relieved to get that clean bill of health. Gonna check in with his regular vet this week, see what she thinks. And talk to her about that murmur. Because of course Chaucer would have heart so big it talks. Of course he would.

krista

I'm going to talk for a few minutes about my friend Krista, formerly known as New Neighbor Friend. I think when I first mentioned her here, back in January, I said something about wanting to give our new friendship some room to breathe and grow. Well it's breathing, and it's grown.

I've wanted to post about her for so long that now I'm not sure where to start. She's someone I spend time with almost every week, and talk to almost every day. Sometimes we text through the entire day. Out of nowhere, in other words, I have a buddy. She's a legit presence in my life. If that sounds like an odd way to describe a friend, it's because I'm still getting used to it. In fact sometimes I get awkward around her, I guess because I'm scared of screwing things up, or I'm still shy about opening up so much to another woman. My closest friends, from middle school onward, have mostly been guys.

I really fell for her on St. Patrick's Day. She was so fun loving, so willing to step out of her comfort zone (not a big fan of crowds, and typically eschews the St. Paddy's Day scene) for the sake of getting to know me. We got a little drunk and we got a little wild, dancing with strangers and ducking through the crowd, hand in hand at one point. Sometimes she makes me feel fourteen again. Other times I find myself surprised at how much I can learn from someone ten years my junior.

Krista is a crackerjack. She's the kind of person people over the age of fifty call a pistol. She'll strike up a conversation with anyone, about anything. She's the girl at the bar everyone wants to chat up, outgoing and funny and friendly to a fault. In fact sometimes I get all mama bear around her, because pushy guys (she's beautiful), and because she's younger than me. Not that she needs me to; it's just a funny thing I find myself feeling. Big sister-ish? I don't know.

We talk about family, relationships, blogging (she also has a non-monetized personal blog), what we're reading, our goals and plans. I love listening to her talk about the people in her life. She's more patient, more forgiving, and much more selfless than me, and I find it really inspiring. Plus, she's a fiercely devoted dog mom like me, which is a big thing for us to connect over. When I asked if she belonged to a gym she said no, because she was content to work out at home and in our building's fitness room. She said if she had time to spare for futzing around going to and from a gym, it was time she'd rather devote to giving the dogs a good, long walk. I love that.

Living in the same building, we deal with a lot of the same day-to-day stuff. Rental office issues, neighbor issues, leasing issues, apartment issues. Hell, we text one another pictures when we kill a really big bug. All this gives our friendship an almost sitcom-like quality, making it extra fun.

She brings me treats when she bakes. I got her soup when she was sick. When I told her I wanted to get more comfortable with my dSLR, the next morning she left a stack of handwritten flashcards about camera settings/function outside my door. I check on her pups when she's out. Once, when she came back from our favorite sushi place, she brought me edamame, rushing home so they'd still be hot. I got her one of those Wrap Up hair tool thingies, because her hair looks so great in messy buns. We confess clothing splurges to one another. I make dumb gifs to crack her up and bring her the occasional goody from Whole Foods. Yesterday, knowing it was the third anniversary of my dad dying, she got me flowers. Figured you might need a little pick-me-up today, she said. My other friends who've met her, dig her. Terence loves her. Chaucer adores her.

I know, I'm gushing. But I'm doing it just this once to establish context, for future references to this Important Character.

She makes me feel empowered, is what I told Terence. Just knowing that I can call or text her about any dumb thing. That she's there to listen and rant to and laugh with, whenever. I'm blessed with a small group of really amazing people I get to call friends, but most of them aren't right there, right around the corner literally or figuratively. Krista's geographical closeness is a gift in itself, but the real treasure is her considerate nature and emotional availability. I'm calling her my early 40th birthday present from the universe - one I plan to keep for a very long time.